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Is there a pentagram badge?

In an intro­duc­to­ry post to a news­group, I men­tioned at one point that my part­ner and I have been active in start­ing a CUUPs (Covenant of Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist Pagans) chap­ter in our area, and also that I had just start­ed train­ing to be a Girl Scout lead­er. The com­bi­na­tion of those two state­ments result­ed in quite a bit of dis­cus­sion from peo­ple say­ing “Isn’t Scout­ing a Chris­tian thing? How are you get­ting to do that?” I soon real­ized that there’s a lot of con­fu­sion going on, and fig­ured I’d try to dis­pel it.

I think some of this con­fu­sion is com­ing from the per­cep­tion that there’s one big Scout­ing orga­ni­za­tion some­where, and all the pub­lic­i­ty in recent­ly years over the Boy Scouts of America’s poli­cies regard­ing homo­sex­u­al mem­bers. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have always been sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions. The BSA was found­ed in 1910. The Girl Scouts of the USA were found­ed in 1912. They are not the same, and the deci­sions of the BSA do not reflect the poli­cies of the GSUSA. 

Yes, I’m open­ly pagan. Yes, I have been a Girl Scout lead­er while being open­ly pagan. The pri­ma­ry troop lead­er each year knew that I’m not Chris­tian, and didn’t express any con­cern about it. There’s not a word in the screen­ing and recruit­ment process about any require­ment that lead­ers or scouts be Chris­tians. One year there were two pagan, one Bud­dhist, and five Chris­tian girls in our troop. There was anoth­er who didn’t express any kind of reli­gious views her­self, but whose moth­er described their fam­i­ly as “most­ly athe­ist.” There wasn’t any trou­ble due to that diver­si­ty between the girls or the par­ents in the troop as far as I know. 

From the offi­cial GSUSA web site:

The “moti­vat­ing force in Girl Scout­ing” is spir­i­tu­al. Girl Scouts respects the spir­i­tu­al val­ues and beliefs of its mem­bers, leav­ing the inter­pre­ta­tion of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty to each indi­vid­u­al and the fam­i­ly.

The Girl Scout Law embod­ies the core val­ues of Girl Scout­ing. Our “moti­vat­ing force,” described by the con­sti­tu­tion as “spir­i­tu­al,” is con­sis­tent with the val­ues of many reli­gions. Reli­gious lead­ers have often praised the “rules for liv­ing” con­tained in the Girl Scout Promise and Law, which are so com­pat­i­ble with the val­ues they bring to young peo­ple through their own reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­grams.

And lat­er:

Girl Scout poli­cies, sum­ma­rized below, ensure that all Girl Scouts are treat­ed equal­ly in regard to their reli­gious beliefs:

–Every Girl Scout group shall respect the vary­ing reli­gious opin­ions and prac­tices of its mem­ber­ship in plan­ning and con­duct­ing activ­i­ties.

–When a Girl Scout troop is spon­sored by one reli­gious group, mem­bers of dif­fer­ent faiths or reli­gious affil­i­a­tions with­in the troop shall not be required to take part in reli­gious obser­vance of the spon­sor­ing group. 

The Girl Scout Promise and Con­sti­tu­tion do men­tion “God.” The leader’s guide* says: 

In the Girl Scout Promise, the word “God” is used to rep­re­sent the spir­i­tu­al foun­da­tion of the Girl Scout move­ment. “On my hon­or, I will try to serve God” is how the Promise appears in print, the same as it has been since the begin­ning of the move­ment over eighty years ago. Most girls when say­ing the Promise will use the word “God.” For some girls, how­ev­er, words oth­er than “God” may be used to express their spir­i­tu­al beliefs. Because Girl Scout­ing encour­ages respect for the beliefs of oth­ers, girls may sub­sti­tute for the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise the word that most close­ly express­es their per­son­al spir­i­tu­al beliefs. 

It goes on to explain that the lead­er should work with a scout, her fam­i­ly and her reli­gious lead­ers to find the appro­pri­ate word or phrase for that scout if “God” isn’t right for her. 

I’ve found noth­ing in the Girl Scout mate­ri­als that’s offen­sive to me as a pagan or a Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist. I can­not, in fact, find any­thing that I could see as being offen­sive to any­one of any spir­i­tu­al path. There are reli­gious awards for scouts from var­i­ous reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions — you can find some of them list­ed at Pro­grams of Reli­gious Activ­i­ties with Youth. One that isn’t list­ed there but is of spe­cial inter­est to pagans is the Covenant of the God­dess’ Hart and Cres­cent Award (The Hart & Cres­cent mate­ri­als are also avail­able online, with the CoG’s per­mis­sion.)

I have seen men­tion of Chris­tian Girl Scout troops. I imag­ine those troops wouldn’t be as accept­ing of me or my daugh­ter, but then I wouldn’t seek them out. If I did have a per­son­al encoun­ter with a troop that wasn’t sup­port­ive of spir­i­tu­al diver­si­ty, I’d try to work things out with the troop’s lead­ers, then go to the local GS Coun­cil of nec­es­sary, as it would clear­ly vio­late the GSUSA’s poli­cies. There’s no place in Girl Scout­ing for any kind of pros­e­ly­tiz­ing by any­one of any faith. 

And yes, I do strong­ly encour­age oth­er pagans to be involved with Girl Scout­ing and open about their beliefs. The GSUSA has a real prob­lem in some areas with get­ting enough adults involved to serve the num­ber of girls who want to be scouts, and this is one of the ways we can serve our daugh­ters and com­mu­ni­ties and do a lit­tle activism to improve people’s aware­ness and atti­tudes regard­ing pagans. Need I men­tion that it’s fun, too? 

As for sex­u­al pref­er­ence, I can’t speak for the expe­ri­ence of any open­ly homo­sex­u­al or bisex­u­al peo­ple with the GSUSA, but I’ve found absolute­ly no overt or covert mes­sages in any GSUSA pub­li­ca­tions regard­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, bisex­u­al­i­ty or het­ero­sex­u­al­i­ty — and I’ve looked. Appar­ent­ly the GSUSA just con­sid­er sex­u­al­i­ty to be a pri­vate mat­ter. There’s cer­tain­ly no place for any overt­ly sex­u­al activ­i­ty at any offi­cial scout­ing activ­i­ty, so that’s a per­fect­ly rea­son­able stance as far as I’m con­cerned.**

*The Guide for Junior Girl Scout Lead­ers, page 6, copy­right 1994 Girl Scouts of the USA
**In May 2001, after this arti­cle was writ­ten, I came across a mar­velous pin at the Badge and Sash — the offi­cial Girl Scout store. It’s a gay pride flag with the words Girl Scouts Cel­e­brate Diver­si­ty on it.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished Feb­ru­ary 23, 2001

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